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7december200911Today, a two-week UN Summit on Climate Change officially began in Denmark's capital city of Copenhagen, attended by US President Barack Obama and many other international leaders. In preparation for the summit, Asian giants China and India have joined Western countries in committing to lower their carbon emissions in order to curb global warming.

Yesterday, UN climate chief Yvo de Boer expressed his hopes for the upcoming discussions, telling reporters, "I believe negotiators now have the clearest signal ever from world leaders to draft a solid set of proposals to implement rapid action."

De Boer continued, "Never in the 17 years of climate change negotiations have so many different nations made so many firm pledges together. Almost every day countries announce new targets or plans of action to cut emissions."

On Saturday, spokesperson Manu Kumar announced that Indian Prime Minister Manhuman Singh will attend the climate talks on 17-18 December. This announcement follows on the heels of Singh's visit to Washington DC, where US President Obama strongly encouraged him to take part in the climate change negotiations. Earlier, India had announced that it would be represented at the conference by Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh.

Last week, India followed pledges made by the US and China to significantly lower its greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade. The government gave a target of reducing the ratio of pollution to production (emissions per unit of gross domestic product, or GDP) to 20-25% of 2005 levels by 2020, although it reportedly would not accept a legally binding emissions reduction target.

India plans to lower its emissions by introducing mandatory standards for fuel efficiency in 2011, along with green building codes to ensure greater energy efficiency, and the deployment of cleaner technology in the country's coal-fueled power plants.

India ranks fifth in global carbon dioxide emissions, accounting for 4.7 percent of the world's total emissions. The US and China emit roughly 40 percent of this total, with Russia and Indonesia completing the top five emitting countries.

China, the world's second largest emitter, recently announced a plan to cut its rate of greenhouse gas emissions per unit of GDP to 40-45% of 2005 levels by the year 2020. According to an academic study quoted by the China Daily, this goal will require an investment of $30 billion.

The financial burden of fighting climate change will most likely fall on the Chinese people through raises in annual taxes and fees. According to AFP, the China Daily reported that each household may have to pay the equivalent of $64 per year to help fulfill the government's target for curbing emissions growth.

The policy to curb Chinese greenhouse gas emissions will hopefully slow down global warming in Chinese-occupied Tibet, which is currently suffering an environmental crisis due to climate change. At a recent press conference in Rome, His Holiness the Dalai Lama described the impact of climate change on Tibet's glaciers, which supply water to much of China and the Indian subcontinent.

His Holiness explained, "Some of the rivers which come from Tibetan glaciers or snow mountains, some within 15, 20 years may dry. So it is as we mentioned a very, very serious matter."

Tibet's exiled leader called for joint action to research and find a solution to the problem of climate change in Tibet, suggesting that, "With the full cooperation of Chinese experts, that we organize some experts to go to Tibet and study how much damage (has been) already done and what is the best way to protect (the environment), the best way to reduce the damage. I think that China is also in need, so (I think we should do it) with full cooperation with Chinese experts. I think that's one thing we can do."

His Holiness stated that while a political agreement with China over the Tibetan issue may take some time, the environment can not wait.

"I also think that the political solution (for Tibet) may take time - but that's ok, we can wait. But damaging the ecology, year by year, is happening. So we really need serious studies and to make a plan to protect (the environment). That's I think very, very important."

The Tibetan exile government in Dharamsala is also making an effort to highlight Tibetan climate change during the Copenhagen summit. On 10 December, the Environment and Development Desk of the Central Tibetan Administration will publish a report entitled "The Impacts of Climate Change on the Tibetan Plateau: A Synthesis of Recent Science And Tibetan Research".

Tenzin Norbu, head of the Environment and Development Desk, and Choekyi, a researcher, will take part in the Copenhagen discussions, to brief the negotiators on why Tibet is extremely important in the context of global climate change.

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